See W. E. Smith, The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics (1933); A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson (1945); B. J. Hendrick, Lincoln's War Cabinet (1946).
See W. E. Smith, The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics (1933); B. J. Hendrick, Lincoln's War Cabinet (1946).
Blair participated in the Mexican-American War and was appointed attorney general for the New Mexico Territory after it was secured by General Stephen W. Kearny. A personal and political friend of Thomas Hart Benton, he became known for his views opposing slavery. He also was an outspoken Free-Soiler and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1852. He was defeated in 1858 but reelected in 1860. In Congress, he served as chairman of the important Military Affairs Committee.
Immediately after South Carolina's secession in December 1860, Blair, believing that the southern leaders were planning to carry neutral Missouri into the movement, began active efforts to prevent it and personally organized and equipped a secret body of 1000 men formed out of the paramilitary Wide Awakes organization to be ready for the emergency. When hostilities became inevitable, acting in conjunction with Captain (later General) Nathaniel Lyon, he suddenly transferred the arms in the Federal arsenal at St Louis to Alton, Illinois. A few days later (May 10, 1861), Federal troops surrounded and captured a force of state guards which had been stationed at Camp Jackson in the suburbs of St Louis with the intention of seizing the arsenal. This action gave the Federal cause a decisive initial advantage in Missouri but also inflamed secessionist sentiments in the state due to the subsequent St. Louis Massacre.
Blair was promoted brigadier general of volunteers in August 1862 and then to major general in November. He commanded the 1st Brigade, which consisted of the 13th Illinois Infantry, the 29th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd Missouri Infantries, the 58th Ohio Infantry, 4th Company, Ohio Light Artillery, and Company C, 10th Missouri Cavalry.
In the US Army, he commanded a division in the Vicksburg campaign and in the fighting about Chattanooga, and was one of William T. Sherman's corps commanders in the final campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas.